broadband Engineer Net olympics

Olympics Broadband Numbers BT Style – #Olympics #LOCOG

Usain Bolt - billions of fans want to see him win at the London 2012 OlympicsThree years or so ago someone placed an order with BT. Uhuh!  But this was no ordinary order. The order read something like this:

  • 80,000 connections across 94 locations
  • 4,500 miles of internal cabling
  • 60Gb per second available bandwidth
  • 1,800 wireless access points
  • 16,500 telephone lines
  • 14,000 SIM cards
  • 14,000 cable TV outlets

Juicy eh?  If you were a BT salesman taking that Olympics broadband order you would be planning your retirement. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple.  This is what BT is providing for the 2012 London Olympic Games and the order was probably taken by CEO Ian Livingston himself1 .

There are other interesting numbers to dwell on. Organising committee LOCOG are expecting 20,000 press, media, journos and broadcasters (luvvies?) who, together with 20,000 administrative and volunteering staff are estimated to want to consume up to 6Gbps of bandwidth in accessing the internet.

Circa 17,000 athletes and officials in three thousand apartments at the Olympic village will all have access to FTTP and are expected to use a further 2Gbps bandwidth.

At the Beijing Olympics Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt ran the 100metres in a world record 9.69 seconds. I remember it well. In London 2012 60,000 spectators in the stadium and billions of people worldwide will be cheering him on to another world record. In a way I feel sorry for all the other competitors – most of us just want to see Usain do his stuff.

Now every man jack in that stadium will all be taking a photo of Usain crossing the finishing line (I feel as if I know him already the way I freely use his first name – Mr Bolt doesn’t sound right and I digress).  That’s 60,000 smart phones with a flash going off taking a 3Megabyte photo. Unless you are one of the ones paying the price of a small house to sit directly opposite the finishing line most photos will show Usain as a small dot in the very far distance and quite possibly blurred.

But that is by the by. It will be something to show the grandchildren on Google+/Facebook/iCloud/new social network service yet to be invented (there is still time). That’s 60,000 people uploading photos over the stadium wifi network (which has yet to be fully designed btw). They wont have to think about uploading – it happens automatically these days.

There is more. 500,000 visitors are expected to visit the Olympic park – daily. They will all want to use wifi hotspots and 3G services (shame about the 4G rollout schedule). Lets hope we get the capacity planning right.

The billions of onlookers worldwide are expected to push the Olympics website into the global top 5 most visited for the duration of the games. The site is hosted by BT. Can you start feeling the pressure? I can almost as I write.

The BT network will have three geographically diverse routes out of the Olympic site. The website will be hosted at two data centres – DC1 and DC2 – you don’t need to know where & I’m not telling2. Global Content Delivery Network Akamai is being used to deliver the streaming media. I understand from the BBC that other CDNs are also being used.

BT will manage all this with 700 staff on the ground. In Beijing the Chinese apparently had 25,000 but hey, we are more efficient!

Well there is a lot going on here. I am getting very excited about the Olympics. I know it’s still some time away but the summer will be here in the blink of an eyelid. There have been many naysayers questioning the wisdom of hosting the Olympic games in London. It hasn’t all gone smoothly – I don’t regard the ticketing process as having being great – and the government didn’t make any friends with the recent news that it has allocated £750k worth of tickets for resale to civil servants working on the project – they are paid a salary to do that and the games belong to all of us.

But overall preparations have gone well. The stadia appear to have been finished in plenty of time and we don’t have the scenario of the Athens games where they seemed to be blow drying the concrete the night before everyone arrived.

There is still a lot more planning to be done by the ISP community. We all have to make a bet on how much bandwidth to provision to make our customers’ experience a great one, especially with the news that the BBC will be supporting 3.5Meg HD video streams. This is expensive bandwidth to procure – contrary to recent reports that it costs pence to stream a movie (this may be true over a CDN but the movie has to get from that CDN to the end user which is the expensive bit).

BT has done its bit in relaxing its commercial terms so that ISPs don’t get saddled with huge amounts of unused bandwidth after the games (like I said, costly) and the company still has a lot of work to do to deliver a successful solution.

BT still has a lot to do but at this point in the run up to the games I would like to wish the company well. The irony is that success for BT will be a situation where nobody hears their name for the entire games. Smooth running.

1 It’s the same the whole world over – CEO gets the glory 🙂

2 Mainly because I don’t know.


Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

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